Given how much I read, it is rare for a book to truly surprise me. This is not bad; I love stories of all sorts, even if I know what form it will take and what will happen. But being truly surprised? There’s something spectacular in that. So when I read Jeffrey Bardwell’s The Knight’s Secret, I was thrilled to be truly surprised.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book follows Kelsa as she disguises herself as her recently dead grandfather so that she can go to the capital and collect his pension, thereby allowing her family enough funds to escape the persecution of mages. Her mother, a mage, disguises Kelsa with magic so that she takes the body of Sir Corbin, and Kelsa does her best to mimic his personality and bluster. But she finds herself in over her head when she comes across old lovers and finds the politics far more complex than before.
The general structure of this book is a fairly standard epic fantasy beginning/hero’s journey type story. The hero (in this case Kelsa rather than Sir Corbin) has to enter into a difficult situation in order to enact some sort of task (saving her family), but gets drawn into a situation far more complex than originally intended. The events from then on have a large-scale effect on the world. This is all familiar and much-enjoyed, so I had no problems there. The interesting part is how the plot was carried out.
Body switching is also not an uncommon trope, but I have never seen a young girl take the place of an old man, and oh my goodness, was it fascinating. This went beyond mere disguise, and I was enthralled through the entire story.
2. Thoughts on the characters
Kelsa is a great main character. She has enough intelligence and spunk to pull off this particular plot, with enough hero-worship of her grandfather to complete her mimicry well. However, we don’t see a whole lot of Kelsa throughout the story. She appears at the beginning, when we are first introduced to the situation, but after that up until the end, the character that appears is mostly Kelsa-as-Sir-Corbin. It is almost an entirely different character and the true Kelsa shows up only rarely in his thoughts. I would have liked to see a little more of Kelsa as she was before, but I did find the intersection of the two characters very interesting.
3. Favourite part
The mix of Kelsa and Sir Corbin was definitely my favourite. While I know that it was the same character, just pretending to be another, the switch was so complete as to be entirely deceiving. Until the end, that is, but I shan’t spoil it, even though it was a great ending.
My only real critique for this book is what I mentioned above; I would have liked to see more of Kelsa as she was so that I could understand the contrast between her and who she pretended to be just a tad more. However, I don’t think this was a major thing at all and definitely did not diminish from the story.
Overall, The Knight’s Secret was a great first book in a series and I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the premise of the plot. The idea took something that was familiar and made it surprising, which is not something I see very often at all. An excellent book.